Friday, January 10, 2003

The weirdest thing happened this morning. I've been listening to Natalie Goldberg's tapes of her book Thunder and Lightning all week on my way to meet my carpooler, and then in the afternoon from the carpool to home. Today I drove the whole 120-mile round trip by myself, so I really had a dose.

I've loved every minute of the tapes. I've already started over on Tape 1. She's really helped me start to recover from this terrible desert of not writing that's lasted almost two years.

I've started trying her "writing practice" first thing when I get to work (I get there an hour before I actually need to start working). I sit at my desk, read a chapter of her Writing Down the Bone, and then write for ten or fifteen minutes without stopping. Then I put that aside, and spend the rest of the time until 7 a.m. working at my novel. (Two thirds done; hung up for more than 2 years; has been a terrifying iceberg in my path all that time.) It seems to be working.

But the weird thing this morning was that after I put my writing away, and settled down to get to work, the first thing I looked at was a trade industry journal, Stormwater (I'm a wetlands biologist and a project manager for the nonpoint source water pollution grants program for my state). I'd glanced at it hurriedly a couple of times since it landed in my mailbox Monday. This time I opened it to try to glean some education about new methods of protecting catch basins and inlets.

I began to read, and it seemed a lot more interesting to me than it had the first two times I'd looked at it. About one and a half paragraphs into it, I realized I was hearing Natalie Goldberg's voice in my head, reading to me about petrochemical and solids traps, phase-separated pollutants, and trenchless cured-in-place pipe repair.

I blinked, and went back to reading, keeping Natalie's voice in my head.

It became funny very quickly, because not only was she reading it to me, the way it was written fit her reading cadence perfectly! I read and read -- and understood and retained it! -- and started to wonder if maybe the writer had studied at her knee, or was a Zen practitioner.

To me, writing this now, it seems that *this* writing sounds just like Natalie Goldberg, the way she shapes her paragraphs and the logic of her idea development.

I don't know, do you think it's possible to overdose on a set of tapes?

Oh lord, even that sounds like something she would write! (And so does that...)

It reminds me of a game my husband and I play sometimes. Doesn't matter the subject; one of us thinks to say, "I made you say that!" and the other comes back with, "I made you say that!" and it goes on and on until we're both either fed up or laughing so hard we've forgotten the original subject.

It's probably very Zen.

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